Today South Africans celebrate the Day of Reconciliation. In the past, this day marked important events for very different people-groups: the Afrikaners and the ANC. It was celebrated as Dingaan’s Day on which the Afrikaners celebrated their victory over the Zulu nation in 1838, and it was marked as a significant day in 1961 when the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, was officially launched and carried out its first attacks against the Apartheid Regime. And yet today, despite the divergent origins of the day, it is celebrated as a day of reconciliation, of coming together despite differences and against the odds. It is a day of deciding and believing that we can overcome all that divides us and create a new future, together. It is a reminder of the miracle in which we exist as a nation – one we often take for granted – but one that holds so much promise for those who continue to have faith in a shared future.
Our country’s divided and painful past means that in many ways our nation is still divided and so we must do the ongoing and often painful work of continual reconciliation. The role of the church is more crucial, now than ever, in bridging divides, in breaking down barriers and offering healing and hope. We all have a critical role to play in healing the wounds of the past and choosing reconciliation and the coming together of the oppressor and the oppressed.
Christmas time reminds us that God Himself is the author of reconciliation. He bridged the unimaginable divide between God and humanity, perfection and sin, to reconcile people to Himself. He came to give us a fresh start – to make us new and to restore relationship with us. And so, we are reminded, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)
Those who have been reconciled with God and made new by Him are given the task of bringing His reconciliation to the world. We have the role of holding onto the belief that all things can be reconciled if people are willing to come together and make a new way. New beginnings are still possible if we are committed to receiving them and creating them.